Lockerbie relatives welcome US court decision

RELATIVES of the Lockerbie victims last night welcomed an American jury's finding of 'wilful misconduct' by Pan Am as a major step forward in their fight for adequate compensation.

Jim Swire, the British representative of the relatives, said last night: 'It is an important victory. It opens the way for substantial compensation claims, but more than that, it means airlines will at last take security seriously because it will cost too much not to.'

After three days of deliberation the jury in Brooklyn ruled in favour of the relatives of the 270 victims of Flight 103, who sued the airline claiming the baggage handling had suffered from lax security. An unaccompanied suitcase held the bomb that exploded over Lockerbie on 21 December 1988.

The result could open the way to multi-million dollar damages claims against the Pan Am insurer, United States Aviation Insurance Group (USAIG). The airline is no longer flying. Airlines throughout the world could be forced to review their security in light of the ruling.

Another trial will be needed to assess any damages claim, and none has yet been scheduled.

Dr Swire said that money alone could never compensate for the loss of a relative, but welcomed the implications the ruling would have for airline security.

He said technology able to identify unaccompanied baggage - similar to that containing the Lockerbie bomb - already existed. But it was not being widely installed at airports because of the costs involved. He said the threat of having to settle massive compensation claims in the wake of the decision in the New York case would give airline companies and their insurers a financial incentive to introduce new security systems.

'It sickens me that these changes are spurred for financial rather than humanitarian reasons, but that's just the way it is.'

Peter Watson, British lawyer for the families, said on the BBC that the decision would force airlines to tighten security.

'It's a warning to the airline industry that if their security is as lax, poor and haphazard as Pan Am's was on this occasion, then they face fearful damages. That is the only way a court can bring this home to an airline.'

Yesterday's verdict was greeted with sighs of relief by the many relatives and friends of the victims who crowded the courtroom. The suit sought up to dollars 500m ( pounds 277m) in damages from the airline, which would be paid by the USAIG.

Under international treaties the amount of damages is limited to dollars 75,000 ( pounds 40,000) for each victim, but the 'wilful misconduct' verdict means that much higher damages can now be paid.

The outcome of the trial in the US also strengthens the case against Libya. The insurance company tried to persuade the jury that the bomb was put on the aircraft in London or Frankfurt because of a slip-up in a drug operation mounted by American intelligence and that there was little the airline could have done to prevent the bombing.

Lawyers for the families argued that Pan Am was criminally negligent in its security procedures at Frankfurt and elsewhere around the world, making it possible for a bomb to be put on board the flight from a connecting airline. The defence team believes, as do the Scottish police, that the bomb was placed on a flight in Malta and checked through to New York via Frankfurt and London.

Two Libyan intelligence agents have been charged in Scottish and American courts with engineering the bombing and Libya's refusal to hand them over for trial has led to sanctions being imposed by the United Nations Security Council.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Voices
Ukip leader Nigel Farage arrives at the Rochester by-election count
voicesIs it any wonder that Thornberry, Miliband, and Cameron have no idea about ordinary everyday life?
Sport
sportComment: Win or lose Hamilton represents the best of Britain
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Arsene Wenger reacts during Arsenal's 2-1 defeat to Swansea
footballMan United and Arsenal meet on Saturday with both clubs this time languishing outside the top four
News
i100BBC political editor Nick Robinson had a lot of explaining to do
Life and Style
Nappies could have advice on them to encourage mothers and fathers to talk to their babies more often
newsTalking to babies can improve their language and vocabulary skills
Sport
Tony Bellew holds two inflatable plastic sheep at the weigh-in for his rematch with Nathan Cleverly
boxingGrudge match takes place on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson at PS1
arts + ents
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Female Support Workers / Carers - From £8.00 per hour

£8 - £12 per hour: Recruitment Genius: To assist a young family with the care ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Executive is required...

Argyll Scott International: Commercial Finance Manager

£55000 - £70000 per annum: Argyll Scott International: My client, a world lead...

Argyll Scott International: Commercial Finance Manager

Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: My client, a world leading services pr...

Day In a Page

US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines